What made Jesus angry?
We tend to picture Jesus as a mild-mannered guy who always spoke in hushed tones. But that’s not the Jesus we see pictured in the Bible. Jesus got mad on several occasions.
Now, don’t get me wrong, Jesus was not a hothead nor did he sin in his anger. But he did express anger and it’s important that we pause and ask: What made Jesus mad?
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The Type Of Anger Jesus Had
We will look at what made Jesus angry in a minute. First, we need to look at the type of anger Jesus expressed.
We often view anger as an emotion we should avoid, a sin. But our anger isn’t the problem, it’s what we do with our anger that determines if we sin or not (Ephesians 4:26).
There are things in this world that should make us angry. We should be outraged by the injustices, violence, greed, poverty, and death that run rampant all around us. That should stir up an anger deep within us because it’s just not right. That anger is good; it’s righteous anger. It’s the same anger that God feels when he sees the evil that is so pervasive in the world.
Righteous anger over evil is good, but in our anger, we should not sin. In other words, we might be tempted to fight evil with evil. Through Jesus, we are shown a better way. When stones are thrown at us, we don’t throw them back. Instead, we love.
And that’s exactly what Jesus did. When he got angry over the evil in this world, he never stooped to its level. In his anger, he did not sin.
What Made Jesus Mad?
As we look at what made Jesus mad, I would encourage you to push back against the urge to point the finger. It’s really easy to see how those people did something that made Jesus mad, but it’s really hard to see it in ourselves. Instead of pointing the finger, look in the mirror.
Here are 6 things that made Jesus angry.
1. The Human Condition
Humanity exists in a broken state, a fallen world. That should come as no surprise, the evidence is everywhere. Kids are starving, people are dying, broken families are the norm, mental health crises abound, war is commonplace, and pain and turmoil exist around every corner. We are not okay.
And Jesus was angry about it. This isn’t anger like punching a wall. And it’s probably not even the primary emotion he felt. But you can see anger in his response.
This is most clearly seen in John 11:35, the shortest verse in the Bible: “Jesus wept.” Jesus was so overcome by the human condition, the death a friend faced, that he wept.
In this moment Jesus is reacting to the fallen condition of his people. He is distraught that the people he cares for are experiencing pain. Jesus feels empathy, but he responds with anger. In John 11:38, Jesus was deeply moved and yelled for Lazarus to come out. Jesus was mad over the human condition.
That’s the short version of that story, read more about this encounter here: Why Jesus Wept (and why we should too)
2. Rules Being Placed Over People
The religious leaders in Jesus’ day tended to value adherence to the law over caring for people, which is not what God intended. The rules God established were supposed to help his people stay in right relationship with him and others. The heart of the law was missed in the pursuit of following the law. In other words, they cared more about obeying the rules precisely that they missed what the rules were supposed to lead to.
And let’s be honest, we are no better today, are we?
Jesus continually broke the rules that the religious set up. Now to be clear, Jesus didn’t break the law that God had established. Rather he broke the extra rules the religious leaders put in place to protect the law, and that made a lot of people mad.
Maybe the best example is Jesus healing on the Sabbath (Matthew 12:10, Luke 13:10-17, Luke 6:7, John 9:16). To the religious leaders, that was a no-no, because you were supposed to rest.
Jesus pushed back on this attitude and showed that people were more important. He healed people right in front of the Pharisees, just to show how serious he was.
3. Kids Being Pushed Aside
Jesus went out of his way to show value to kids, when others pushed them aside he made room for them. Not only that, he promises justice for those who harm kids, claims you must be like a child to enter his kingdom, and always makes them a priority (Mark 9:36-37, Matthew 18:14, Luke 9:47-48).
When kids were pushed aside Jesus got angry. The disciples once tried to rebuke Jesus for spending so much time with kids. In response, Jesus insisted that kids deserve a seat in the kingdom of God (Mark 10:13-16, Matthew 19:13-14).
I’m not the most emotional person, but since having a child of my own, I find myself exponentially more emotional about anything regarding kids. It’s hard for me to not get choked up when I see a story about a sick, abused, or neglected child.
I imagine God’s heart is like that. Whenever a child is sick, hurt, in distress, lonely, abandoned, hungry, being abused, or told lies, I believe God is deeply moved. We see that in Jesus as he walked this earth. He loves kids and can’t stand to see them hurt.
Maybe the most common anger that Jesus expressed was over self-righteousness. Jesus got mad at the religious leaders because really, they were just religious phonies. They pretended to be good, but in reality, they were just as messed up as everyone else. But they refused to admit and acknowledge their own sin.
Jesus famously calls out this hypocrisy by saying they wash the outside of the cup but ignore the inside (Matthew 23:25-32). They carefully protected their image and appeared good, but ignored the dirtiness of their heart.
Jesus wasn’t necessarily mad at them because of their sin. He was mad because they pretended they were better than they were. Jesus came for the sinners and the sick, but he got mad at those who were self-righteous.
5. Making It Difficult For People To Get To God
This one and the last one go hand in hand. The reason Jesus often got mad at the religious leaders is they made it hard for people to get to God. They complicated the rules, sold sacrifices for a profit, and belittled those who weren’t as “good” as them.
They propped themselves up by pushing others down. Now, let’s not point fingers. We do this ALL the time in our minds and behind people’s backs. We tear people down so that we look better. We are no better.
This attitude made Jesus mad.
This is ultimately what caused Jesus to flip tables in the temple twice (John 2:13-17, Matthew 21:12-17). What was happening was the religious leaders were selling the sacrifices required by God’s law for a profit. In other words, poor families who traveled far and at great expense to follow God’s law were extorted, when they should have been helped.
This is where we see Jesus at his angriest. He makes a whip and drives them out. Why? Because they were making it harder for people to get to God all so they could make a few bucks.
6. Selfish Ambition
Again, this one builds off the previous, but I think there’s an important distinction. Jesus often got mad when people had ulterior motives or selfish ambitions. He critiques the Pharisees for praying loudly in public (Matthew 6:5) because they were doing so for their own gain. He once said he preferred the pennies of a widow to the large bags of coins from the Pharisees (Mark 12:41-44). He was admonishing the Pharisees because they didn’t care about the heart of giving. It was all a show, and that made Jesus mad.
We tend to view God as a police officer. He just wants us to obey the law and if we don’t, he’ll get us. But he’s not really after a submissive people who just blindly follow him. He’s interested in a relationship with his people. He wants our heart. Often what happens is we miss that the rules are there to bring us closer to him.
We see this attitude through Jesus. He saw through the facades that people put up. They were doing the right actions but for the wrong reasons. Jesus was more interested in what was going on in their hearts and not what they portrayed outwardly.
What Jesus Anger Teaches Us Today
Jesus’ anger was almost always directed towards the religious, and occasionally his followers. Interestingly, he rarely got mad about the injustices done to him; and people said and did some pretty nasty things to him.
Instead, his anger came out when someone was being kept from him. Jesus wanted all people to have the opportunity to know his love for them and when that opportunity was squashed by a rule, a person, or a system, he got mad.
I don’t know about you, but my anger is often directed towards those who have wronged me. Maybe that’s you too. After all, we have valid reasons for being mad at that person. They deserve it, but we follow a God that gave us what we needed instead of what we deserved.
Our anger should look like Jesus’ anger. He didn’t lash out at people who wronged him, even though he had every right to. Instead, he reserved his anger for those who were being neglected and abused. May we too show anger for what made Jesus mad. And may we be able to point to the cross where ALL of God’s wrath was satisfied.
If you want to keep studying this topic check out: What Made Jesus Mad by Tim Harlow
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